MARKETING FORUM 97: Why marketers need better PR - The Marketing Forum’s closing address bombarded delegates with bad news about their standing with their boardroom colleagues and with the City. Mike Hewitt was there

You know that feeling you’ve had for a while now that you and your fellow board members just don’t see eye to eye? Well, the Marketing Council has some good news: You’re not paranoid - they really do hate you.

You know that feeling you’ve had for a while now that you and your

fellow board members just don’t see eye to eye? Well, the Marketing

Council has some good news: You’re not paranoid - they really do hate


That, at least, might have been a reasonable conclusion to draw from the

closing address of The Marketing Forum, at which a succession of senior

marketing folk stood up to parade their perceived inadequacies in the

eyes of their colleagues and investors.

Before an audience of 600 top-drawer client marketers, a depressing

parade of statistics, backed up by some impressive method acting,

portrayed marketers as a rather sad and misunderstood bunch.

The acting came in a sketch designed to highlight how badly other

business functions viewed marketing’s role. A gung-ho marketing director

delivered a jargon-littered presentation to a table of distinctly

unimpressed colleagues, all of whom had reservations about his


It was funny enough to get the delegates laughing, but the implications

are serious: research commissioned by The Marketing Forum showed that,

while 68% of marketers thought they were good or excellent at strategic

thinking, only 34% of other business functions felt the same way.

There wasn’t much comfort in other areas, either: 71% of marketers

believe they are good or excellent when it comes to ’results

orientation’, but just 36% of their colleagues agree.

By now the atmosphere was reminiscent of a support group for people with

terminally low self-esteem - quite a difficult feat to achieve with a

room full of ego-driven marketing folk.

Consumer confidence

Fortunately, there was better news from consumers. Research by Pegram

Walters International shows that the largest group of consumers is

generally positive about marketing and marketers (see box, right).

Perhaps more tellingly, it was suggested that consumers shouldn’t need

to know or care about marketing, any more than they should about the

machinery behind the stage at the theatre: the best advertisement for

marketing is great brands.

Where a poor image among consumers might be a problem is in recruitment:

few intelligent people will be willing to work in a discipline they

either don’t like or don’t understand.

But previous research published in Marketing shows that there are plenty

of graduates who want to take it up as a career. The problem lies in

specialist areas such as below-the-line, which does find it hard to

recruit sufficient graduates of the right calibre. Complacent, maybe,

but consumers seem to be the last people who need reminding that

marketing matters.

In the City, things are rather trickier. While some major companies have

begun valuing brands and including them as an asset on the balance

sheet, few are good at including information about marketing in their

annual reports.

Perhaps that’s why, when City analysts were asked what aspects, apart

from financial details, they considered when evaluating a story,

marketing didn’t feature.

Reasons for this included the fact that marketing is considered part of

the overall strategy. As one analyst said: ’You look at the effect on

the bottom line, rather than the mechanics of how they did it.’ What did

matter was market share, as the one quantitative measure of success.

The fact is that marketing does not always get the recognition marketers

reckon it deserves.

John Stubbs, chief executive of The Marketing Council, put it like this:

’At any one time, other people in the business are quite likely not to

know what marketing is doing. In the media, marketing all too often

means a scam or a ploy. Politicians use it to mean promotion.’

By the end of the session, Stubbs and a panel of high-profile marketers,

including Mike Detsiny of the Marketing Society and Steve Cuthbert of

the Chartered Institute of Marketing, had called on everyone present to

do their bit to ’sell’ marketing to their workplace colleagues, the

City, and the public. Certainly the Marketing Council itself is planning

a series of initiatives to raise the profile of marketing.

Given that a recent Marketing poll found marketers ranked higher even

than journalists on the public’s ’hate list’, that may yet prove an

uphill task.


Consumers seem surprisingly positive about marketers, according to

research by Pegram Walters International. Here are the four groups into

which they split the consumers they spoke to:

- Generally Positives 32% The Players of the Game: The largest segment

of the population. Open and accepting of marketing. Neither opposed to

direct mail nor worried about the use (or misuse) of information.

- Nervous Positives 29% The nervous players. This is the second largest

segment. They are very similar to the Generally Positives, but are

genuinely concerned about possible misuse of personal information. This

group accepts and plays the game, but is suspicious about


- Junk Mail Rejecters 18% This cluster is largely negative to marketing,

largely because it does not understand its necessity (especially in the

area of sponsorship). This group’s views are largely influenced by its

dislike of inappropriate direct mail.

- Marketing Resisters 21% This group is, on the whole, cynical about

marketing. They feel that it pressures consumers unnecessarily and is

dishonest. However, they also hold marketers in high esteem: they are

seen to be very influential.


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